From Justice to Love

  • John Wilson


Like Plato, I think there are such reasons so far as justice is concerned; but I am bold enough to claim that Plato did not see clearly enough into the heart of them. I suspect that this was because he put the paradigm case or model of such commitment — personal love — behind him, for reasons of his own (some of which are traceable in the Symposium). But however that may be, we should begin by considering such a case. A loves B: and we mean by this, of course, not just that A has some kind of passion directed to his image of B, but that he takes B seriously, knows what B is like, faces the reality of B, and is committed to that — to the real B. Now, what is there in this for A? Not, centrally, anything we might want to call ‘pleasure’: B may bring A a lot of grief, anxiety and so forth. Happiness? Here we rightly feel ‘yes and no’: no, if ‘happiness’ is tied too tightly to notions like contentment, security and lack of anxiety; but yes, if it involves also the idea of an enriched consciousness and a meaningful existence. (A full analysis would end in a ‘yes’, in my view: see Wilson, 1979.) The idea of life being worth living, ‘meaningful’, in any case preferable (A would not do without B, however much grief B caused him)? Certainly that; and that, after all, is the kind of thing we are after in seeking intrinsic reasons for commitment.


Moral Philosopher Worth Living Real People Public Form Conscious Mind 
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Copyright information

© John Wilson 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Wilson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Educational Studies and Mansfield CollegeUniversity of OxfordUK

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